This is one that keeps cropping up both in my head and in conversations around the firm. It cropped up again last week as I was talking to one of our Rising Talent programme teams who are in the middle of solving a business problem. Excitingly, they have identified ‘social’ as being a solution to the problem. I obviously agree! And it’s great to have people from around our business, identified as being on an upward trajectory, investigating social media, and advocating for its use. Their project will formally end when they present it to members of the Exec later in the Spring. Excellent! Means our UK leadership will be hearing good things about social business from a group of people that aren’t me, and which complement what I’ve been saying. Also helps that they won’t come with the “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he” factor. The good news for me is that I’ll get to pick up their idea and (probably) execute it when they complete their project.
But what about the timing issue? One piece of advice I had a few years ago is to “make sure the business is ready” to do this sort of thing. By “ready” I think they meant stable, constant, outside of change programmes etc. But, like so many large global corporate organisations, change is the only constant nowadays. Anyone who doesn’t expect some sort of change to happen around their organisation on an annual/biennial basis isn’t operating where I am. Yes, it would be nice to have no change for a period. Yes, stability is important. I don’t believe the two (change and stability) are mutually exclusive. Just take a look at the world around you. Does that stop changing? Anything major happening in the UK in a year’s time? Ah yes..that thing. That’s going to happen. Change will be everywhere.
I don’t think there’s ever going to be a ‘perfect’ time to roll out advocacy. Euan Semple’s book – Organisations don’t tweet, People do!* – has a chapter called ‘Unleashing your Trojan Mice’. He argues that instead of having large-scale initiatives or programmes which require big budgets or permissions (and are therefore slow and difficult to build), should be overridden by having smaller, more agile, less controlled ones. In a large organisation like mine, I buy that. Not everyone will be impacted by every change programme or transformation.
We need a pool of people to crack on with it. And some legitimacy from on top to endorse it all and kick-start it. And some content. And then a plan put them all together. And and we might just be ready for the off. Nice to have something to aim for.
What advice would you offer me? When do you think the best time to start an employee advocacy drive? Is there a bad time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.